What Yoga Means To Me:
A Series of 15 Teachers’ Stories in 15 Days
celebrating Yoga Tree’s 15 Year Anniversary.
No matter what is going on in my life, I love knowing that yoga is there. Not just the yoga that takes place on the mat, but also the yoga that happens in the ordinary, everyday moments of my life. When my anxiety kicks in or I find myself feeling rushed on my way to class, I often pause what I am doing, inhale deeply, and say (sometimes aloud):
And now, the practice of yoga begins.
And it is so true. There does not have to be a division between the mindfulness we bring to our asana practice and the mindfulness that we use to approach our life. How we do anything, is how we do everything. Yoga humbly asks that we remain in the present moment. Even just acknowledging that yoga is accessible anywhere helps me breathe bigger. The unconditional presence of the practice, for me, is like a beloved. No matter how often you leave, or how long you stay away; no matter how you show up when you come back, the beloved is waiting for you with open arms. The practice is always ready and willing to give you a big hug and say Welcome Home.
That embrace, that greeting, that love – that is the gift of yoga in my life.
As I walk the path of my own healing, yoga has provided the toolkit: breath up to my heart, compassion for myself, and a community of like-minded souls who are also on a healing road.
Compassion is a key part of the healing practice of yoga because it helps us find unconditional presence for ourselves. The image that comes to mind is laying my head in the lap of the Buddha. What a wonderful thought to find a place where we can rest without worry, and be held by someone that honors our struggle without judgment. How beautiful that we can be that for ourselves – and each other.
Growing up as a wrestler and serious athlete, I never imagined that I would find more joy and fulfillment in placing my hand on my heart and breathing deeply, than I ever did in crossing a finish line or winning a match. Now I breathe up to my heart each day, and feel a little more open with every breath that I take.
My yoga community continuously reminds me that we practice for more than just ourselves, and that real change can be fostered through community. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn recently said:
The next Buddha will not take the form of an individual.
The next Buddha will take the form of a community;
A community practicing understanding and loving kindness,
A community practicing mindful living.
This may be the most important thing we can do
for the survival of the Earth.
We are all adding to this vibrant, evolving community with our breath and our participation. We all come to the mat for different reasons, and as human beings, we all want to be seen and loved. Yoga provides a unique space for both of those things. As a yoga teacher, I have the great privilege of being one of the first voices that some students hear in their practice. The best part of my job is when yoga takes over, and students find the authentic voice inside themselves. With practice and time, that voice takes the lead on the mat and off.
Yoga fosters a connection to spirit in every one of us, and it doesn’t always have to be serious. I love that even though yoga is a deeply spiritual part of my life, I can use it to access the playful, funny, and spontaneous parts of who I am. I can have a practice that provides joy and healing in the same downward dog.
No matter how often I teach, yoga ensures that I will always be a student.
And now, the practice of yoga begins.
About the Author: Pete Guinosso is known for his joyful energy, compassionate guidance, and sense of humor. Pete creates a spiritual yet light-hearted environment for his students to uncover the deeper benefits of yoga in his Forrest Yoga Inspired Vinyasa Flow classes. He is creator of “Lighting the Path” teacher training and a faculty member of the 200hr and 500hr Yoga Tree Teacher Training Programs.
Pete’ intention in instructing teachers is to share the value of quality sequencing and hands-on adjustments so that new teachers can bring healing to their own communities. Having studied with Ana Forrest since 2003, and assisted her in her workshops and teacher trainings, Pete is passionate about helping teachers build trust in themselves and become their “wiser self,” the place from which he encourages them to teach.
Pete created Free Hug Day, Yoga Pranksters, and Yoga for Change movement, all work supporting Bay Area non-profits and having fun.